Great Charity Challenge’s $1.3 Million Pre-COVID-19 Support Proves Crucial for 49 Palm Beach County Non-Profits

Founded during the last crisis in 2008 by father/daughter team, Mark and Paige Bellissimo, the Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments® (GCC) came forward as a way to increase funding to local non-profit organizations.The impact of COVID-19 replicates the situation of 12 years ago; for local non-profits, their staff and volunteers, the effects of the pandemic have been consequential – they have stepped up to meet our neighbor’s emerging needs ranging from food insecurity, loss of income, access to basic needs, healthcare support, etc.

To date, the exciting show jumping competition that blends equestrian sports and philanthropy has raised and distributed $14.8 million to 256 charities. “We were very fortunate to hold our 11th edition a few weeks prior the shutdown,” commented Executive Director Anne Caroline Valtin.

With $1.3 million awarded on February 1, 2020, 49 local Palm Beach County organizations received funding at the onset of the pandemic, enabling them to quickly react and meet the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors.
Photo courtesy Great Charity Challenge.

As an example, Hacer Food Pantry, a recipient of GCC funding, went from serving 150-175 families at each food distribution site to 500 families since the start of the pandemic. “By June 2020, we had already surpassed the number of individuals served when compared to the previous calendar year,” explained Executive Director Henry Bayron.

So what does $1.3 million at work look like locally? A cumulative 150,265 lives were impacted in Palm Beach County during this reporting quarter. To view the latest compiled fund use report, click here.

Spirit of Giving, the grand winner of the event, was awarded a $150,000 grant thanks to the generous support of donors, riders and their fearless mounts. With the funding, the organization was able to provide 4,409 students with grade appropriate pre-packed backpacks containing essentials such as face masks, hand sanitizer, shoes, socks, headphones as well as school supplies.  Additionally, the non-profit partnered with Boca Raton’s Mayor Scott Singer in creating The website connected individuals who needed help with people who were willing to volunteer during the lockdown, in partnership with the Boca Raton Interfaith Clergy Association. “We would not have been able to do this without the support of the GCC as most of our events/services had been canceled and/or postponed,” remarked Executive Director Lindy Harvey. “Having this funding is allowing Spirit of Giving to continue to do important work during this time, ensuring that our most vulnerable are heard and taken care of.”

For Feed the Hungry pantry of the Palm Beaches, the GCC directly impacted its ability to serve over 100,000 food insecure individuals throughout the pandemic. “We originally received $40,000 through the event,” commented Executive Director Dan Shorter. “However, the event’s ability to assist its charities goes far and wide beyond that initial funding as we were introduced to additional supporters and contributors through the initiative. An example – through meeting the founders of Danny & Ron’s Rescue, we have received over 50,000+ lbs of donated pet food since March, enabling pet owners to keep their pets through these challenging times.”

For Step by Step Foundation, the $30,000 donation has enabled them to purchase PPE, basic essentials, as well as school supplies for other local organizations. “As a volunteer-based organization who works directly with many local non-profits, finding out what they needed to keep their doors open and serve the most vulnerable was key,” added Executive Director Liliane Stransky.

These are just a few examples of the 49 benefiting organizations. To view the full fund use report, click here.
Photo courtesy Great Charity Challenge.

For ease of review, fund use reports are further divided into three sections:
  • the organizations who were randomly paired with riders and who competed in the event (and received between $15,000 and $150,000 in funding)
  • the organizations who were randomly drawn to receive grants
  • and the organizations who received grants through the generous support of the Ziegler Family Foundation
“Paige and I are looking forward to expanding the GCC’s impact this coming year,” adds event co-founder Mark Bellissimo. “Our community’s needs have intensified exponentially in the last few months and once again, non-profits are the ones stepping up to the meet the demand. We want to create a County-wide movement of generosity, inspiring people to give and collaborate to support their crucial efforts.”

The application process for the 2021 GCC will run from October 26 through November 15, 2020. Based on a community needs assessment with the county, in partnership with local agencies and in direct response to the unique setting surrounding COVID-19, the event’s 12th edition is committed to shifting a majority of its funding priorities towards local non-profits who are directly supporting and assisting the most vulnerable and affected populations in Palm Beach County.

For additional information about the event, including donation and sponsorship information, click here.